Nella Rose’s I’m A Celeb criticism proves that Black women can never win in reality TV

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Updated Jan 5, 2024 at 03:25 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Nella Rose, a popular influencer boasting a substantial following of over 1.1 million on her TikTok account, has made a real name for herself among gen Z audiences. So much so that Rose even earned the title of ‘Best Media Personality’ at the MOBO Awards in 2022. It was undoubtedly this growing presence that led her to be cast in the 2023 series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

Sadly, only a few weeks into her time in the jungle, Rose was voted out by the public. While this might appear like a fairly common routine on the reality TV show on the surface, it’s actually reflective of a distressing trend—one that penalises and heavily criticises Black female contestants.

This pattern, reminiscent of horror movie clichés where Black characters are often the first to go, raises concerns about racial bias in voting processes. Rose faced undue criticism and vitriol from both the media and online trolls, emphasising the challenge Black contestants face, particularly regarding not being able to make mistakes or react naturally without severe consequences. This phenomenon of racist and sexist abuse is nothing new, it’s a trend we’ve seen grow and develop over the years, and it’s a topic we’ll delve into deeper today.

The online reaction to Nella Rose following Nigel Farage and Fred Sirieix disagreements

Some of the initial criticism began after Rose engaged in an on-screen disagreement with fellow contestant Fred Sirieix. This was then quickly followed by a political confrontation with campmate Nigel Farage regarding cultural appropriation and immigration issues.

@gbnews

Nella Rose challenged Nigel Farage on his political views during a heated exchange in the I'm A Celebrity jungle #NellaRose #Farage #NigelFarage #ImACeleb #IACGMOOH #ITV #GBNews

♬ original sound - GB News - GB News

From that point onward, I witnessed a remarkable surge of online hostility directed towards Rose. Numerous TikTok videos emerged, displaying abuse and aggression at the 26-year-old influencer. All of the tension between Rose and Sirieix further amplified this online vitriol. People overwhelmingly took the French chef’s side in the disagreement, insisting that Rose was being too dramatic and overly sensitive.

Moreover, I think for a lot of young people, it was painful to see the internet practically back Farage and his political ideology—a man who’s frequently referred to as “the man who broke Britain.”

The subsequent backlash against Rose raised some important questions. Could it be true that even a Black woman like Nella Rose, celebrated for her fun and social media influence, faces such blatant discrimination?

@coleandersonj

dont discripekt her Fred #imaceleb #nella #fred #celebrity #fyp #trending

♬ original sound - Cole Anderson James

The abuse directed at Rose sheds light on the persistent racial discrimination in reality TV. The issue extends beyond the public’s voting patterns and also encompasses editing choices that perpetuate stereotypes. Black participants often endure a double whammy of racist and sexist abuse, as seen in the experiences of Alexandra Burke, a participant on the talent show X Factor.

In an Instagram video shared in 2020, Burke explained how she remembered being told: “You can’t have braids, you can’t have an afro. You have to have hair… that appeals to white people.”

The now 31-year-old star, who clinched victory on the TV talent show in 2008 at the young age of 19, characterised these experiences as “heartbreaking.”

 

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A post shared by Alexandra Burke (@alexandraburke)

Burke, steadfast in her decision not to bleach her skin, shared that she was motivated to share her story after fellow X Factor contestant Misha B recently spoke out about feeling “devalued” by the music industry.

Misha B alleged that the show propagated an “angry Black girl narrative,” using terms like “feisty” and “bully” to portray her after a live performance on the show in 2011. The contestant also disclosed that this portrayal left her grappling with suicidal thoughts.

Racism in reality TV shows

Unfortunately, this conversation has been going on for a long time. Love Island, the famous dating reality show that originated in the UK in 2005, has faced longstanding criticism for its lack of diversity. To address these concerns, the show made a noteworthy attempt by introducing its first Black female contestant, Samira Mighty, in 2018.

@loveislandclips936

Dani Dyer trying to build Samira’s confidence back up again ❤️✨#destinationdepop #fyp #BOSSUpYourGame #loveisland #LiveForTheChallenge

♬ original sound - loveislandclips936

Audiences have consistently voiced their dissatisfaction with the show’s inability to diversify its cast. And when Black women have actually been cast on the show, they’ve faced disproportionate criticism from voters.

@screenshothq

After 10 seasons of micro aggressions, this year’s Love Island cast have acknowledged the race double standards in the villa, with Catherine and Whitney confronting Sammy after he singled out their interracial couples. #loveisland #casaaor #loveisland2023 #loveislanduk #loveislandcatherine #loveislandscott

♬ Chillest in the Room - L.Dre

While the show has garnered acclaim for its candid depiction of the darker aspects of dating, exploring issues such as ghosting, gaslighting, toxic masculinity, and intricate relationships, it has also highlighted another reality, namely the show’s narrow, predominantly white definition of the cast’s ‘type.’

Mighty, who was the last of the Islanders to find a match with newcomer Sam, serves as a reflection of real-life dating challenges. Notably, on dating apps, Black women often experience a lower likelihood of receiving responses to messages compared to other ethnic groups.

@jordanmaryadele

the siren 💀💀💀 anyway Kaz to win #fyp #foryou #loveisland #tiktokuk #WorkThisWay

♬ original sound - Jordan

Another interesting element that’s arisen from various seasons of Love Island is the preference women have for mixed-raced men. Both Georgia Steel and Ellie Brown, two previous contestants of the reality show, acknowledged and revealed that mixed-raced men align with “their type.” However, Love Island has brought to light a concerning pattern. Mixed-raced women, with the exception of Montana Brown, from the previous series, have struggled to find matches.

@emmainprogressuk

#loveislandcast #loveislandbestbits #intersectionalfeminist #misogynoir #loveislandreactions #loveisland #loveislandmoments #loveislanduk #feminist

♬ original sound - Emma

A parallel situation occurred on the US dating show The Bachelor, where Black women were consistently eliminated early, prompting producers to cast a Black Bachelorette in 2017. This strategic move aimed to ensure that, regardless of the outcome, the Black woman would depart with a match.

While Mighty may be currently coupled up, addressing the persistent sidelining of Black women from Love Island would require a significant shift in the script, challenging the inherent biases of the real world within the realm of reality TV.

@erin.alexandria

Rachel’s npr interview part 2! #rachellindsay #missmewiththat #thebachelorette #diversitymatters #realitytvdrama #bachelornation🌹 #presstours

♬ Stories 2 - Danilo Stankovic

The recent incident with Nella Rose prompts questions about TV’s responsibility in rehabilitating figures like Farage, known for divisive and, let’s be honest, incredibly controversial comments on race and immigration. Instances of ethnic minority contestants receiving fewer votes than their white counterparts, as seen with Rose on I’m A Celebrity, are part of a recurring pattern on TV shows.

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